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Match Report -
Celtic rue missed chances
By Iain Benson
There were five teams challenging for two play off spots before kick off, and with Harrogate, Droylsden and Kettering all losing, Celtic's loss means it is as you were at the end of play, with the exception of Worcester, who moved into sixth. A win therefore, would have been an excellent result for Celtic, but it was not to be.

Some sloppy defending in the first half cost Celtic dear, and it started immediately, with a ball from Garrity angled into the box for Furlong and Black to chase, Furlong arrived first, immediately shooting across Pettinger into the back of the net. Vauxhall won a couple of corners, which Celtic were able to defend, before Parr conceded a free kick some distance out. The ball was floated into the box, and Martindale lost who ever was marking him to get a free header and a second goal for Vauxhall. Lawton floated another free kick into the box, it took a last ditch block by Black to deny Martindale his second.

Celtic looked to be struggling to string two passes together, but did work some chances, starting with Ellington winning a free kick on the edge of the area. Turley rolled the ball to Barnard whose thunderous shot cleared the bar. Maxfield got flattened by Moogan, and Turley floated the free kick into the box for Ellington to control, he did so, but ex-Celt Field blocked for a corner. A Garvey cross was dummied by Turley allowing Eastwood a shot, but he put it right down the middle for Lake to scoop up.

As Celtic looked to be getting back into the game, McDermott went on a run into a wide empty space, and had the time to pick a cross. He found Martindale again unmarked, and again Martindale struck with his head. Just before the end of the half, Vauxhall won a couple of corners, but again Celtic had no trouble defending them.

During the interval, Reed must have read the riot act for Celtic came out more determined. From the off Garvey was fouled at the edge of the box. Ellington stepped up to take it, curled the ball around the wall and into the bottom corner well out of the reach of Lake. Moments later, Garvey brought a cross down into the path of Turley, but his shot cleared the bar. And when Vauxhall threatened, they found Pettinger in better form as well, Addo's shot tipped excellently over the bar. Pettinger followed this up with a good save from an acute angle when Field got behind Keeling.

Parr lofted the ball over the defence for Turley to run onto, he did so, striking a sweet shot that required a sharp stop from Lake. Kharas was then handed a glorious opportunity to open his Celtic account. When McNulty and Ellington both went for the ball and missed it fell into Kharas? path, Lake advanced and Kharas opted for the lob, clearing Lake and the crossbar. Even Pettinger was getting in on the act. Addo fouled Barnard near the Celtic box, Pettinger's free kick bounced awkwardly for the defence, and looking to be going into the net, but for Lake who back-pedalled and tipped the ball over the crossbar. Kharas got onto the corner, but Keeling got in the way. A McNulty handball allowed Garvey to whip in a free kick that had Sykes and Moogan challenging, the later conceding a corner and Vauxhall's defence was looking creaky.

Sykes could have brought Celtic to within one goal and set up an interesting last quarter, when Maxfield's cross found him completely unmarked in the six yard box, had he put his header anywhere else, it was a goal, as it was, it was straight into the grateful Lake's arms. Celtic kept plugging away, and when Kharas was dragged down Moogan in the box, Kharas made sure that the referee knew it was a penalty. Moogan walked and Ellington stepped up.

Ellington converted that rarest of things, a Celtic penalty.

It set up a grandstand finish. Atkins was within an inch of equalising when Garvey teed him up thirty yards out, and he struck a sensational shot with no back lift that missed the post by a fraction of an inch. Sykes could have equalised when Baynes? cross found him at the back post, but Lake reacted well, keeping the ball out.

Vauxhall eventually got the ball away and tried to hold it in the corner. Addo fell over the ball and got a free kick. Field received the free kick, and instead of returning to the corner, turned and danced along the touchline, taking the ball past a statuesque Celtic back line, before walking it into the back of the net deep into stoppage time.

Kharas could have reduced the arrears with the last kick of the match when Sykes? flicked header gave him time and space to pick a shot, but his soft side foot was gladly pounced upon by Lake right on the whistle.

Celtic missed glorious chances in this game, converting half of them would have marked an amazing come back, but football's about goals not chances, and Celtic only got half as many as Vauxhall. Fortunately, other results went our way, and we are still in with a chance. It is almost as if there is a fairy tale ending waiting at the end of the season, and fate doesn't want it spoiled.

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